“Oona goota, Solo?”
In case you don’t speak Rodian, that means “Going somewhere, Solo?”, a question the bounty hunter Greedo asks Han Solo at the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars before a hail of blaster fire ignites one of the most tiresome Star Wars debates of all time – Did Han shoot first? (Of course he did).
As it turns out, Han, and Harrison Ford, really WERE going somewhere after all – into the hearts of Star Wars fans as one of the coolest characters in that galaxy far, far away.
To be honest, though, while Han is one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, little is known of his past. We knew that he was a notorious smuggler who hangs out with a walking carpet, and that he has an old friend named Lando Calrissian, from whom he won a certain Corellian YT-1300 light freighter called the Millennium Falcon. Beyond that, little was known about his past. Until now, that is.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is the first of Disney’s non-Episode “Star Wars Story” prequel films to feature a prominent character from the Original Trilogy (the cameos by Leia and Vader from Rogue One don’t count), and happily, it manages to do Han’s backstory some justice.
Alden Ehrenreich makes for a convincing young Han, managing to get Ford’s trademark smirk and swagger down pat while exuding the pre-requisite roguish charm and self-confidence. This is a much younger and more naive Han though – in fact, he actually starts off without the Solo part of his name at first.
A ‘scumrat’ scrounging a living on the ship-building planet of Corellia, young Han and his lover Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) dream of leaving the planet together. In the end, he manages to do so, but without her.
Vowing to go back to get her, he joins the Imperial army to become a pilot, ends up in a warzone where he meets and befriends a certain Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo).
Never tell Disney the odds, especially when it comes to its Star Wars prequels. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi may have been surefire box-office hits, but both of its “Star Wars Story” films so far – 2016’s Rogue One and now Solo – were considered riskier endeavours that messed with well-established characters and stories.
Sure, Rogue One turned out to be a success, but Solo was a harder sell, being an origin story about an established fan favourite. It didn’t help that the production was plagued with problems, the most major of which was the firing of original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were replaced with Ron Howard.
So the question now is, does Solo make it out of its carbonite prison it seemingly created for itself? The answer is a resounding YES.
If you’ve always wondered how Han met Chewie and Lando (Donald Glover), how he got the Millennium Falcon, and what a 12-parsec Kessel Run is, then this is the movie for you. It breathes life into these iconic but brief mentions of Han’s mysterious past, and gives the character a backstory that neatly foreshadows his deeds and decisions in the Original Trilogy.
Delving into the criminal underworld of the Star Wars universe, it takes us into a world we’ve only caught glimpses of in the films, and establishes a new layer of villainy within the official canon. It won’t be anything new to fans of the pre-Disney Star Wars expanded universe, of course, but it is still nice to see the villainous aspects stretching beyond that of Stormtroopers and red lightsabers.
Much of the movie revolves around heists, and one train robbery in particular stands out as one of the most exciting Star Wars action sequences in recent times. Ehrenreich aside, Glover is at his most roguish, arrogant best as Lando, while Harrelson’s grizzly Beckett is a convincing mentor for the young Han.
Of the central relationships, however, the romance between Han and Qi’ra pales in comparison with his other two ‘loves – Chewie and the Falcon. Watching the friendship between him and the Wookie grow is one of the films biggest joys, and there is more love in the way he looks at the Falcon than there is when he looks at Qi’ra.
If there’s one complaint I have, it’s that Solo gives him TOO much of a backstory. Han Solo has always been one of my favourite characters because you didn’t know much about his past. You never really knew whether those things he boasted about doing (including that 12-parsec Kessel Run) were true, and that was the beauty of the character – that roguish air of mystique, that hint of self-doubt behind all the chest-puffing bravado, and the glint of soft-heartedness behind that arrogant smirk.
By putting a reason behind all of these traits, Solo somehow manages the rare feat of developing the character while diminishing it at the same time.
That’s not to say Solo is a bad film. Far from it. It’s a solid action-adventure that adds another layer of intrigue to the official Star Wars canon, while also giving our favourite scruffy-looking nerf herder the spotlight for once. “Oona goota, Solo?”. Most definitely.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany.